Immigration Department promises to speed up spousal applications

The federal government says is devoting more resources and improving the process for Canadians whose spouses are immigrating.

Ottawa has vowed to cut the processing times and backlogs for spousal immigration applications by more than half with an expanded annual quota for 2017 and a new simplified application kit available next week.

Starting immediately, most spousal sponsorship applications submitted in and outside Canada will be processed within 12 months, down from the current average of 26 months and 18 months respectively, Immigration Minister John McCallum announced on Wednesday.

“We have listened to Canadians and are delivering results. Bringing families together makes for a stronger Canada. Canadians who marry someone from abroad shouldn’t have to wait for years to have them immigrate or be left with uncertainty in terms of their ability to stay,” McCallum told a news conference in Brampton.

“What we are announcing today is a more efficient, more considerate process to reunite families.”

Complaints by Canadians and their foreign spouses and dependants over long processing times and lengthy separations had fallen on deaf ears under the previous Conservative government.

Although the Liberals had made fixing the backlog a priority during the election campaign, the immigration department had been preoccupied with the ambitious project to resettle tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.

With an additional $25 million allotted to reduce the immigration backlog in it’s 2016 budget, the Immigration Department has managed to reduce the processing times of spousal sponsorship applications by 15 per cent for inland applicants and by more than 10 per cent for those waiting overseas.

The government also raised the annual quota for foreign spouses and dependants this year to 64,000 people from 47,000 in previous years. With limited spots and increasing demands, the backlogs persisted and grew over time.

Immigration officials said they hoped to clear all existing applications by the end of 2017 with the expanded quota, additional staffing resources and a streamlined process.

A new simplified application kit will be available December 15 for new applicants that cuts the current 14 application checklists down to four. All incomplete applications will be returned early in the process to prevent them from clogging the system, the government said.

McCallum said the streamlined processing was the brainchild of a special team of immigration staffers based on lessons learned through the Syrian refugee resettlement experience. The spousal sponsorship program is the first to be simplified and improved, he added.

“This is the single, biggest one we have focused on,” McCallum said. “It is something of a milestone. If there’s one most important campaign commitment on immigration, this is it.”

Although more complex applications will still take more than 12 months, 80 per cent of applications are expected to be processed on target. The department will also extend its pilot program, slated to end this month, for another year to issue open work permits to sponsored spouses within Canada while waiting for their permanent resident status.

Despite the streamlined process and the new time commitment, officials said full criminal, security and medical screening will continue to be in place.

McCallum said he did not expect a return of the backlog once it is cleared.

“We have changed the structure, the way this is done. There’s no way this is not going to be permanent,” he noted.

John McCallum says Mexican visa could be ‘reimposed’ if refugee claims spike

Canada's Immigration Minister John McCallum speaks in the House of Commons in Ottawa
Canada’s Immigration Minister John McCallum speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Canada is prepared to reinstate a visa requirement for Mexican travellers if the number of refugee claims jumps too high, says Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum.

The visa lift is set to kick in Dec. 1. McCallum said the federal government was aware of a possible spike in asylum-seekers long before Donald Trump was elected president in the U.S.

“There would come a point where a visa could be reimposed,” he said but would not specify what number of claims might trigger that. “Canada retains its sovereignty on this issue. There comes a point where it would become unsustainable, but we are hoping that point will not arrive.”

CBC News has learned officials at IRCC and other departments have held high-level meetings to discuss a potential flood of Mexican asylum-seekers due to both the visa lift and the result of the U.S. election.

Benefit ‘outweighed’ risk

Trump campaigned on promises to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to swiftly deport undocumented workers and illegal residents.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the plan to lift the visa requirement during a visit by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on June 28. During that meeting, Mexico announced it would fully reopen its market to Canadian beef in October.

A senior immigration official said Tuesday that a review was carried out in the run-up to that announcement and a number of risks were identified. But he declined to provide details or recommendations because it was “advice to the minister.”

Testifying to the immigration and citizenship committee by video from Mexico City, Olivier Jacques, IRCC’s area director for Latin America, acknowledged that more Mexicans could arrive from the U.S., and others directly from Mexico, due to changes.

Jacques said various criteria are reviewed to assess a country’s “readiness” for a visa lift. In Mexico’s case, those risks were measured against Canada’s “unique relationship” with the country, including geographic proximity and the close trade relationship within NAFTA.

“At this point, the assessment of the government is that the benefit related to a visa lift outweighed any identified risk we have with these migrants,” he said.

Trade, tourism boost

During the daily question period Tuesday, Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel pointed to that testimony and asked why the Liberals “blatantly” ignored the red flags in a rush to lift the visa requirement.

But McCallum said there are benefits associated with the visa lift, including increased trade and tourism.

“We are very happy to welcome more Mexican tourists to this country and to accept the jobs that go along with that.”

McCallum reiterated that Canada made the agreement with Mexico in June, before Trump’s presidential win.

“We went into partnership with the Mexican government to minimize those risks, so obviously we were aware of them from the beginning,” he said.

Under the previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper, Canada imposed the visa requirement due to a huge rise in refugee claims that were subsequently rejected for being invalid.

The number of Mexican claims referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board was climbing dramatically until it peaked at 9,511 in 2009. After the visa requirement was imposed, it dropped to 1,349, then continued to shrink to just 120 in 2015. Between January and June this year, there were only 60 cases, according to the most recent figures available.

IRCC Issues Public Statement on Improvements to Express Entry


Canada’s immigration system may be set for further changes

he Express Entry immigration system will undergo important changes that will come into effect later this week on November 19, but that might not be the end of adjustments to be made to the system.

Earlier today, November 14, the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issued a press release in which it outlined the changes to be made in the short term.

As CICNews reported last week, these changes include: the awarding of points for certain job offers made to workers in Canada who do not have a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), additional points for candidates with a Canadian education, and an extension on the validity of Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for permanent residence. (To learn about these changes in more detail, see our previous article on the subject of imminent changes to the Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System.)

Interestingly, IRCC’s press release also states that the reforms ‘are part of a number of improvements the Government is making on a continual basis to bring changes for a more fair and responsive immigration system that will address emerging needs and ensure long-term economic growth for the middle class.’

As a consequence, it may well be the case that the changes to be implemented on November 19 are the first in a series of possible changes that may be made over time. For example, the Liberal government has previously said that it would consider the awarding of points to candidates who have prior connections to Canada, such as having a sibling in Canada as a citizen or permanent resident.

At this time, IRCC has not brought in modifications with respect to awarding points having a sibling in Canada. However, that does not necessarily mean that such a change may not take place in the future. Today’s press release certainly leaves scope for such a change, or other changes, to be made in the future.

Being proactive

As the government’s statement demonstrates, Canada’s immigration system is constantly changing. In addition, it is not only the federal government that is in a position to make important changes — the provincial governments also do so through the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).

Enhanced PNP categories that are aligned with the Express Entry system open and/or change on an ongoing basis, offering Express Entry candidates an opportunity to submit an application to a PNP and potentially be awarded 600 CRS points. Candidates should note that an enhanced nomination certificate is now the most important factor under the CRS, as a job offer is now worth either 200 or 50 points, depending on the position (to learn more about this change, click here).

The fact that stakeholders are now presented with a federal system (Express Entry) that is undergoing changes, as well as a range of PNP options that have also proven to change over time, highlights the importance for candidates to be proactive and engaged with the system at both the federal and provincial levels.

Speaking of the improvements to Express Entry that have been outlined, Canada’s Immigration Minister said that “We have committed to doing more to attract highly skilled immigrants to come to Canada and become permanent residents, because this is important to build our economy and strengthen our society. I am confident that the changes to Express Entry will be one of the many positive outcomes of the changes we will be bringing to our immigration system.”

What candidates can do to prepare

With only a few days left until the changes that have been outlined are brought into force, it is important for candidates in the pool — as well as other individuals thinking of immigrating to Canada through Express Entry — to understand how this may benefit them and their profile,” says Attorney David Cohen.

“Candidates should also note that IRCC, as the department itself states, is in a position to make changes to the system on a continual basis. Therefore, candidates who stay up to date and maintain a fully updated Express Entry profile, as well as stay abreast of all PNP options, put themselves in the best possible position to immigrate to Canada successfully. On this basis, I would encourage anybody who is thinking of entering the Express Entry pool to do so as soon as possible.”

The new and improved CRS Calculator   crs-calculator-2-2

Since the changes to the Comprehensive Ranking System were announced last Thursday, November 10, many thousands of people around the world have successfully been able to gauge their CRS points total using the CRS Calculator, which has been updated to reflect the imminent changes to the system.

To find out if you are eligible to immigrate to Canada permanently, fill out a free online assessment form.

Canadian officials preparing for potential flood of Mexican migrants after Trump wins presidency


The federal government is preparing for a potential surge in Mexican migrants coming to Canada after Donald Trump’s election victory, CBC News has learned.

Sources confirm high level meetings took place this week with officials at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and in other departments.

The news comes as Canada prepares to loosen rules for Mexicans to enter the country by lifting a visa requirement on Dec. 1. That restriction has been in place since 2009.

Talks on a plan to cope with a possible spike in asylum-seekers have been ongoing for some time, but were accelerated this week after Trump’s surprise win.

Trump campaigned on promises to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to swiftly deport undocumented workers and illegal residents.

Lawyer predicts ‘significant impact’

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman expects an increase in refugee claims from Mexicans once the visa requirement is lifted. He also predicts a “significant impact” from Trump’s election.

“The government was very concerned about the potential for a large number of new claims coming from Mexico, and that’s why they hesitated for so long before announcing that they were going to remove the visa,” he said.

“And that announcement was made before anyone knew that Donald Trump, with his very different immigration policies from those of the current administration, won the election.”

But Waldman cautioned it’s too early to tell exactly how the situation may unfold, saying it will depend on whether Trump follows through on his campaign pledges.

When Trump first launched his presidential bid in June 2015, he took sharp aim at Mexico, suggesting the country was unleashing criminals in to the country.

“They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing their problems,” he said. “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists and some I assume are good people, but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting.”

In August last year, he released an eight-page policy paper on immigration that outlined plans to build a multi-billion-dollar wall along the Mexican border, but force Mexico to pay for it. He also vowed to detain and deport undocumented migrants and triple the number of U.S. immigration officers.

And just this September, he reiterated his hard-line commitment to remove illegal migrants en masse.

“There will be no amnesty,” Trump said at an Arizona rally. “Our message to the world will be this: You cannot obtain legal status or become a citizen of the United States by illegally entering our country.”

Potential abuse flagged

The possible Trump effect is on top of what some have flagged as a potential for immigration system abuse with the lifting of the visa requirement.

Conservative Immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the Stephen Harper government imposed the restriction in 2009 after ballooning numbers of bogus refugee claims from Mexico.

She accused the Liberals of making an “arbitrary” decision to lift the restriction without doing a formal study of the potential impact, or establishing new measures to prevent abuse.

“You don’t impose a visa on a nation that’s close to us in terms of trade unless there’s a serious, discernible problem. And there was,” she said.

If there is suddenly a dramatic rise in asylum claims, that will “give pause”  for the American government and for Canadians, she said.

Once in Canada, refugee claimants are entitled to a suite of benefits, including health care, until a decision is rendered in their case.

Longstanding issue

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the plan to lift the requirement during a visit by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on June 28. During that meeting, Mexico announced it would fully reopen its market to Canadian beef in October.

A senior official in the office of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum confirmed the government is sticking with the Dec. 1 date to lift the visa.

“Our officials are working with Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Mexican officials to lay the groundwork for the visa lift, including measures to identify and deter irregular migration. And we’ll continue to monitor migration patterns post-lift,” the official said.

CBSA said a potential spike in migrants is speculative at this time.

“It is business as usual at our designated ports of entry, this includes processing any refugee claimants,” said spokeswoman Esme Bailey. “The CBSA processes over 90 million travellers a year and routinely monitors its operations to ensure proper resources.”

Asylum claims way down

The number of Mexican claims referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board was climbing dramatically until it peaked at 9,511 in 2009. After the visa requirement was imposed, it dropped to 1,349, then continued to shrink to only 120 in 2015. Between January and June this year, there were only 60 cases, according to the most recent figures available.

Government officials had suggested the visa requirement could be reinstated if the number of asylum claims from Mexico reaches 3,500 in any given year. But a news release announcing the policy did not mention any conditions attached to the change.

Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland called that cap a “close the barn door after the horse has bolted” policy. He said the government should carefully track weekly intake and “flip the switch” if it exceeds, for example, 100 cases.

“It is foolish to know claims will exceed 3,500 in a year, and do nothing during the year,” he said. “We have the technology to be more nimble.”

Biggest-Ever Express Entry Draw


Canadian Immigration News

International Graduates Granted Reprieve after Refusal of Post-Graduation Work Permit Applications  

Canadian Immigration newsA group of former international students whose applications for Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWPs) were refused are now able to re-submit their applications. Canada’s Minister of Immigration, John McCallum, has established a public policy to reconsider applications for three-year open work permits from certain graduates.

A PGWP is a Canadian open work permit targeted towards international graduates from eligible programs at recognized institutions in Canada. The permit allows the holder to work for any employer anywhere in Canada, and may be issued for up to three years.

This new public policy means that international graduates who meet certain conditions may apply again for a three-year open work permit and restoration of Temporary Resident status, in addition to having the related fees waived. Foreign nationals may be eligible for consideration if:

  • They were refused a PGWP between September 1, 2014 and March 15, 2016;
  • The reason for the refusal of the application was because the applicant completed the majority of the coursework by distance learning; and
  • The entirety of the applicant’s program of study, including transfer credits, was not considered before the application was refused on the grounds that the majority of coursework was by distance learning.

Eligible foreign nationals may apply from within Canada or from outside Canada. The fees associated with restoration of temporary resident status, work permit application, and open work permit holder applications are waived — these fees together usually come to a total of $455 CAD. In addition, the public policy waives the requirement to apply for a restoration of status within 90 days of the expiration of status. Consequently, eligible graduates who are in Canada without status may still apply.

Applications under this public policy must be made by March 17, 2017. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has committed to processing complete, eligible applications within 40 days.


n 2015, a group of students from Niagara College, Ontario, saw their applications for PGWPs refused because, according to the immigration officers examining the applications, the study programs were largely comprised of distance learning courses. While the immigration regulations state that a graduate is not eligible for a PGWP if he or she “participate[s] in a distance learning program either from abroad or from within Canada,” this condition is not explained further.

In December 2015, a judge ordered a judicial review of an application submitted by one of the affected graduates, which had been refused because five out of the six courses he took at Niagara College were deemed to be distance learning. However, as a student, the applicant had also taken courses at another college, and it appeared that the immigration officer had not taken these courses into consideration. The court ruled that all courses, including transferred credits, ought to be considered in the assessment of an applicant’s eligibility for a PGWP.

A group of these students filed a class-action lawsuit against Niagara College in the summer of 2015, alleging that the college misrepresented its general arts and science transfer program. They claim the college assured students that graduates from this program would be eligible for the PGWP, and that the college does not offer distance learning. However, numerous applications were denied on the grounds that distance learning courses were not considered eligible under the conditions of the PGWP regulations. No further developments in the lawsuit have been reported since the summer of 2015.




Atlantic premiers and federal ministers announce immigration boost


Watch Now

WATCH ABOVE: The Atlantic premiers along with the federal Liberals have announced details of a pilot project designed to spur the region’s lacklustre economy. Global’s Marieke Walsh has the details on a program that could bring 2,000 more immigrants and their families to the East Coast.
The Atlantic premiers have announced details of a first-in-Canada pilot project designed to boost the region’s flagging economy through immigration, with a particular focus on ensuring that newcomers don’t join the steady stream of outmigration to other parts of the country.

Under the plan, the government will accept up to 2,000 immigrant applications in 2017, with increased numbers in the following years depending on performance.
“So it could be something like 4,000 people, and that number is scheduled to rise in coming years, depending on how well we do,” said John McCallum, the federal minister of immigration.
He said the immigration component will be largely driven by the provincial governments and their specific needs.

“We will be open to a variety of skill classes, and we, in my office, will work with each government to develop a plan specific to their own province with a focus on particular occupations, particular regions and with a focus on engaging companies to not only recruit the immigrants but to undertake measures to keep them here,” he said.

The details were announced Monday at a meeting in Prince Edward Island of the premiers and a number of federal cabinet ministers.

Program to pilot in Atlantic Canada

McCallum said the two levels of government will look for ways to ensure that once immigrants arrive, they’ll stay in a particular region. He said that could include efforts to expedite credentials for different jobs.

He said while the program will be a pilot project in Atlantic Canada, it could be the model for the rest of the country in years to come.

When asked what’s being done to entice people who have left their provinces to return, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said attracting new people and repatriating residents is all part of the same effort.

Prince Edward Island Premier Wade MacLauchlan agreed.

“I truly believe by succeeding on immigration we will make Prince Edward Island a more attractive place in terms of repatriation,” MacLauchlan said.
He said the workforce in his province must grow in order to create sustained prosperity.

Existing unemployed residents won’t be overlooked

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball said while increased immigration is necessary, it doesn’t mean that existing residents that are unemployed will be overlooked.

“Newfoundland and Labrador will always continue to invest in our residents who are ready and looking for employment. We will continue to train those that are under-skilled and looking for work,” he said.

Ball also stressed that the immigration plan is only one of the five pillars in the new Atlantic Growth Strategy.

Details will later be announced dealing with innovation, clean growth and climate change, trade and investment, and infrastructure.

“Our fundamental goal is to increase the number of good paying jobs and opportunities here in Atlantic Canada,” said Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and economic development.

He said the growth strategy won’t be just another report that gathers dust.

“It’s legitimately about us focusing on areas of action and we can really move the agenda forward in a collaborative manner where we align our priorities and resources and we are outcome driven,” he said.
© 2016 The Canadian Press

Canada’s new passport requirements come into effect this month

WATCH: Here’s what you need to know about Canada’s new passport requirements coming into effect
Canada’s new passport requirements come into effect in late September, forcing Canadians with dual citizenship to carry a valid Canadian passport to enter the country when travelling by air.

Starting September 30, all air travellers must have the appropriate documents to travel to Canada before boarding their departing flight.
“A valid Canadian passport is the only reliable and universally accepted travel document that provides proof that you are a citizen and have the right to enter Canada without being subjected to immigration screening,” reads a statement posted on the Canadian government website.

READ MORE: Travelling to Europe? Canadians and Americans may require visas soon

The new requirement, known as an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), was introduced earlier this year but hasn’t been strictly enforced. However, the government had been encouraging dual citizens to obtain a valid Canadian passport.

“Leniency will be shown to travellers who are caught unaware until September 29, 2016,” reads a notice on the Government of Canada website.

Prior to the change, Canadians who hold dual citizenship were able to enter Canada with their foreign passports and use a driver’s licence or citizenship card to prove Canadian citizenship. Now, air travellers must have either a valid Canadian passport; a Canadian temporary passport; or a Canadian emergency travel document for proof of citizenship.

READ MORE: How easy is it to travel with a Canadian passport?

The new requirements only currently apply to air travel.

American citizens and American-Canadian citizens can still fly into Canada on a valid U.S. passport.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Canada no longer issuing long-term study permits for international students with conditional offers



Canada no longer issuing long-term study permits for international students with conditional offers

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced last month that students who needed to complete a pathway or language program prior to continuing on to post-secondary study must now obtain separate study permits for each course.

Before this, students who were accepted to colleges and universities based on the condition that they first complete another course were issued a study permit for the duration of both courses, plus 90 days.



However, IRCC has said that it will no longer provide study permits for those with conditional offers, and will instead only issue a study permit for the duration of the first course.

A second permit for post-secondary study will then be allotted once the student has proven that they have fulfilled all prerequisites for further study.

According to the notice posted by the IRCC, there were concerns raised regarding the possibility of students abusing the system to find work in the country, as under the previous system, those who did not complete their prerequisite program would still be allowed to work under the study permit.

“Once the prerequisite program has been completed, the student can apply for a new study permit and demonstrate that the requirements of the first program have been met,” it said.



IRCC explained that the changes were meant to make compliance reporting easier for institutions, adding that “students will not be negatively affected”.

Higher education providers still have their concerns, however, particularly involving delays and additional costs.

Speaking to The PIE News, Gonzalo Peralta, executive director of national language education association Languages Canada, said: “The biggest concern we have, of course, is around delays.”

He said that a student taking a language course over the summer would have a short amount of time to secure a permit that would allow them to continue their studies, as the academic year starts in September.

Peralta estimated that tens of thousands of international students would be affected by the change.

“Are [IRCC] going to be able to handle processing and other 25-40,000 permit renewals per year?” he questioned.



The association was also worried that students and schools would have to bear extra costs as a result of needing to obtain a second study permit.

“There’s a cost attached to that which is passed onto the student for – we don’t believe – any valid reason, because it’s not going to actually provide any more integrity as far as we’re concerned,” argued Peralta.

Tina Bax, founder and president of CultureWorks, an English for Academic Purposes school, agreed with Peralta, saying: “Adding an additional regulatory hoop for students who want to go on as planned seems silly.

“We used to have that regulation 15 years ago in Canada. It seems as though we’re going backwards.”



Bax added that there were other methods that the IRCC could employ in order to keep tabs on students without having them apply for two permits.

“Why not require schools to report students who don’t show up, or who leave the program, to IRCC? IRCC could then track whether the student re-enrolled somewhere else,” she suggested.

Image via Unsplash

Source : Study International Staff

Aug 29th, 2016